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How to Use Siri with a Third Party iPhone Calendar

How to Use Siri with a Third Party iPhone Calendar

It’s easy to feel – and be – more productive with Siri. But, how many times have you wanted to use Siri’s phenomenal ability to create a quick appointment, only to be thwarted by your third-party calendar? Tired of the work-around of creating the appointment with Siri on the fly, and then copying/pasting it into a third-party calendar? Read on, because I’ve tested the following solution over the last month or so, and it is consistently effective.

The Problem

The problem is Siri doesn’t talk to third-party calendars, like Pocket Informant (which is what I’ve used for years). As much as I love Siri, I don’t love it enough to give up Pocket Informant for the native calendar. But I also love Siri’s ability to create appointments on the fly, regardless of what I’m doing, as long as I can be heard clearly enough. I got tired of using Siri to create notes and then pasting them manually into the calendar. That’s hardly an elegant solution, and none of the others generally available in the discussion groups work well, either.

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The Solution

Knowing that Pocket Information syncs quite well with Google Calendar, and that the native iOS calendar also syncs quite well with Google calendar, it occurred to me that I ought to be able to figure out how to get the two calendars to talk to each other using Google Calendar as the go-between. It took a few tries across half an hour or so to get it working the way I wanted, but from there it was all smooth sailing to tweak a few settings.

Here’s what I did, using a combination of Google’s recommendations for setting up syncing in general, and a few tweaks I tried along the way:

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Set up Google Sync with your iOS device

  1. On your iPhone, go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars, select Add Account, select Microsoft Exchange.  Yes, really. (If you already have an Exchange account set up and aren’t running iOS 4 yet, either upgrade to iOS 4 or search the Google help for additional instructions on setting up another sync type.)
  2. Enter your complete Google email address in the Email field, leave Domain blank, enter your full address as the email address, and put your password in the appropriate spot.  Two-step password users should use an application-specific password rather than the primary password.
  3. Press Next, press Cancel if “Unable to verify certificate” appears, enter “m.google.com” in the Server field, and press Next again.
  4. Select the Google services you want to sync (Mail, Contacts, and/or Calendar).  In this case, you definitely need Calendar and you’ll need mail if you want to respond to meeting requests using this mechanism.  New Eventsneeds to be enabled in your Google Calendar Settings. (To enable New events, sign in to your Google Calendar using the web browser on your phone or computer. Go to Calendar Settings > Calendars  and click on the Notifications for the calendar you want to sync. Under Email check New events (and any of the other Invitation settings you want enabled, and click Save.)
  5. At this point, there are several options for syncing (and retaining or deleting) the contacts on your iOS device. Since I set this up on mine long after establishing my contacts database on the phone, I wanted to retain my iCloud contacts. In order to do that, select the Keep on my iPhone option when prompted. This will also allow you to keep syncing with your computer via iTunes. The other options allow you to variously delete and replace the contacts on your phone with those from your Google account, or replace them in the other direction.

Set up Google Sync with the iOS calendar

At this point, we now need to tell the phone to sync the iOS calendar with Google.

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  1. Open Safari on your iPhone and go to http://m.google.com
  2. Sign in and select the device you’ve associated with your Google account.

    Set up Google Sync with your third-party calendar

    You only need to do this once, so if you’ve already done it (as I had), you don’t need to do it again. The instructions will be calendar-specific, so there are far too many calendars available to list them all here. If your calendar supports Google sync, the built-in help or a quick search online will return the instructions.

    Since I had many customized categories in Pocket Information and these don’t sync to Google (yet), and there was no way to effectively get them all to the iOS calendar or to tell Siri to use them, I have to do this step manually. However, since I already conduct a calendar review as part of my personal productivity routine, assigning the single category I typically use to flag particular appointments isn’t a big deal for me.

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    Fix the alarms and categories in iOS

    Since I wanted Pocket Informant to be the alarm manager as my primary calendar, I needed to silence the alarms, popups, notification center behavior, and badge counters in the native iOS app just to cut down on clutter and keep things neat.  That took only a few minutes, and a bit of frustration as I dealt with duplicate alarms because I chose to make all of these changes during a time of the day where I have recurrent reminders set. I also changed the default colors for the iOS default categories to match the same colors I use in Pocket Informant, which further reduced the changes I needed to make when minor final tweaks to a voice-created appointment were processed.

    Once consistent snag I seem to encounter is recurrent alarms that were set before I implemented this automatic multi-sync solution don’t always go off. An irritating, but effective, solution is to delete the recurrent appointment and recreate it, which seems to have solved the problem in every case where I’ve tried it.

    You can read more about Siri’s effectiveness in CM Smth’s Lifehack article, 30 Days with Siri.

    Featured photo credit: Annette Shaff / Shutterstock.com and inline photo by junyaogura via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)<

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    Last Updated on May 14, 2019

    8 Replacements for Google Notebook

    8 Replacements for Google Notebook

    Exploring alternatives to Google Notebook? There are more than a few ‘notebooks’ available online these days, although choosing the right one will likely depend on just what you use Google Notebook for.

    1. Zoho Notebook
      If you want to stick with something as close to Google Notebook as possible, Zoho Notebook may just be your best bet. The user interface has some significant changes, but in general, Zoho Notebook has pretty similar features. There is even a Firefox plugin that allows you to highlight content and drop it into your Notebook. You can go a bit further, though, dropping in any spreadsheets or documents you have in Zoho, as well as some applications and all websites — to the point that you can control a desktop remotely if you pare it with something like Zoho Meeting.
    2. Evernote
      The features that Evernote brings to the table are pretty great. In addition to allowing you to capture parts of a website, Evernote has a desktop search tool mobil versions (iPhone and Windows Mobile). It even has an API, if you’ve got any features in mind not currently available. Evernote offers 40 MB for free accounts — if you’ll need more, the premium version is priced at $5 per month or $45 per year. Encryption, size and whether you’ll see ads seem to be the main differences between the free and premium versions.
    3. Net Notes
      If the major allure for Google Notebooks lays in the Firefox extension, Net Notes might be a good alternative. It’s a Firefox extension that allows you to save notes on websites in your bookmarks. You can toggle the Net Notes sidebar and access your notes as you browse. You can also tag websites. Net Notes works with Mozilla Weave if you need to access your notes from multiple computers.
    4. i-Lighter
      You can highlight and save information from any website while you’re browsing with i-Lighter. You can also add notes to your i-Lighted information, as well as email it or send the information to be posted to your blog or Twitter account. Your notes are saved in a notebook on your computer — but they’re also synchronized to the iLighter website. You can log in to the site from any computer.
    5. Clipmarks
      For those browsers interested in sharing what they find with others, Clipmarks provides a tool to select clips of text, images and video and share them with friends. You can easily syndicate your finds to a whole list of sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Digg. You can also easily review your past clips and use them as references through Clipmarks’ website.
    6. UberNote
      If you can think of a way to send notes to UberNote, it can handle it. You can clip material while browsing, email, IM, text message or even visit the UberNote sites to add notes to the information you have saved. You can organize your notes, tag them and even add checkboxes if you want to turn a note into some sort of task list. You can drag and drop information between notes in order to manage them.
    7. iLeonardo
      iLeonardo treats research as a social concern. You can create a notebook on iLeonardo on a particular topic, collecting information online. You can also access other people’s notebooks. It may not necessarily take the place of Google Notebook — I’m pretty sure my notes on some subjects are cryptic — but it’s a pretty cool tool. You can keep notebooks private if you like the interface but don’t want to share a particular project. iLeonardo does allow you to follow fellow notetakers and receive the information they find on a particular topic.
    8. Zotero
      Another Firefox extension, Zotero started life as a citation management tool targeted towards academic researchers. However, it offers notetaking tools, as well as a way to save files to your notebook. If you do a lot of writing in Microsoft Word or Open Office, Zotero might be the tool for you — it’s integrated with both word processing software to allow you to easily move your notes over, as well as several blogging options. Zotero’s interface is also available in more than 30 languages.

    I’ve been relying on Google Notebook as a catch-all for blog post ideas — being able to just highlight information and save it is a great tool for a blogger.

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    In replacing it, though, I’m starting to lean towards Evernote. I’ve found it handles pretty much everything I want, especially with the voice recording feature. I’m planning to keep trying things out for a while yet — I’m sticking with Google Notebook until the Firefox extension quits working — and if you have any recommendations that I missed when I put together this list, I’d love to hear them — just leave a comment!

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